Let’s say, you are at the wedding of a beloved family member or friend, which is taking place at any protestant church. And then you were called to come to the table of the Lord’s Supper, to receive communion. As a practicing Catholic, will you accept the invitation?
Actually, according to the Code of Canon Law, to receive communion in a Protestant church is generally not permissible. Canon 844 says, “Catholic priests are to licitly administer the sacraments to Catholic members of the Christian faithful only and, likewise, the Catholic faithful should licitly receive the sacraments only from Catholic priests”. If a Catholic receives communion from a Protestant minister or priest, it is considered “illicit” or unlawful in general.
The reason for the Catholic Church’s general rule against sharing in the Eucharist with other churches is that a person can only be in full communion with one church (which is Catholic). As a Catholic, the center of one’s union with Christ is the union with the church. And the center of this union lies in the reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist during Mass, which is both a confession and in total unity with the Roman Catholic Church.
The Decree of the Second Vatican Council about the universal church said that, as a general rule, common worship, Eucharistic and other sacramental sharing should symbolize the unity of the church.
The Eucharist is the source, peak and focus of our life in Christ, it exposes Christ to us and is a real and powerful means of grace. It should not be confused with the communion services of other churches. In this case, it is believed that when Catholics take part in a Protestant communion, not believing what Protestants believe, they give out an outward honor that should go to God in the Eucharist to the ordinary creatures of bread and wine.
Being that God in the person of Jesus established communion in the Church (John 6:54). Catholics owe it to God to participate in that sacrament as, and only as he sets it out. And He sets that out through the Church to whom the sacrament was given which is not a Protestant communion service, but the Catholic mass.
Canon law gives exceptions for receiving communion outside the Catholic Church, but only for those churches with a valid priesthood and in cases of necessity. But when there’s no priesthood, no valid Eucharist, no discussion, no matter how much it resembles Catholic worship on the surface, we should adhere to our faith.
We are called as Catholic faithful to witness to our faith. That means living openly as Catholics, showing the world the grace that flows through Christ’s Church. And among those graces is the privilege of receiving Jesus Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity, at Mass where Jesus gives himself to us completely without reserve in the Eucharist.
It is sometimes good in the case of friendship and ecumenism to attend Protestant services with our loved ones. But not to partake in their communion. Because, in the Catholic communion, we have the fullness of the faith. We have Jesus truly present at every Mass, and we receive Him into our very selves. In catholic church, we have the complete sacraments as channels to the grace we need in everyday life to help us on our journey to heaven.
The neighborly thing to do is to invite others to come and learn about our faith so they can join in our declaration of faith and share the feast of the Eucharist with us.